War is not Peaceful

Originally posted on mises.ca on July 24, 2011

In the wake of the senseless, monstrous, and completely unjustified attacks that have claimed (so far) over 90 innocent people in Norway, many of them teenagers, there has been a rather disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of the events: to describe Norway as a ‘peaceful country’, or presenting people who express that view unchallenged:

For instance, the Globe and Mail quotes Hillary Clinton in its lead story on Saturday: “This tragedy strikes right at the heart of the soul of a peaceful people”. And from its Saturday Editorial: “For decades Norway has done far more than its share in spreading goodwill around the world. […] The world owes a debt of gratitude to Norway.”

Here is also the Toronto Star, in an article trying to determine the cause of the attacks: “If there were a peace capital of the world, it would be Norway.”

Others, including the National Post and the Toronto Sun (not to mention international media), are also equally surprised that anyone could have targeted Norway for any reason. But is this sheer and utter bewilderment at all justified?

Put shortly, no. Norway, as part of NATO, is a country at war–in fact, two wars. First is the war in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, and continue to be killed. Norwegian forces have been directly tied to some of those killings, and, according to Wikileaks, actively tried to cover up reports of civilian deaths.

Then there is Libya, and although Norway has stated that it wants to leave the region by August, it doesn’t erase the fact that it has already contributed to over 300 bombs dropped, and, along with other NATO nations, is explicitly targeting the leader of that country, while implicitly (if not outright explicitly) responsible for the deaths of Muammar Gadhafi’s son and grandchildren, as well as other civilian casualties.

Just to be abundantly clear, attacks of wanton destruction, such as the events in Oslo, are always and everywhere unjustifiable. But Norway is at war, and, as Glenn Greenwald put it, “one reason not to invade and attack other countries is because doing so often prompts one’s own country to be attacked.” While at the moment, the only reported suspect in this tragedy seems to have been motivated to act because of discontent with the only the domestic policies of Norway, it doesn’t detract from the main point here: that Norway is not some ultra-peaceful, antiwar country without any blood on its hands, as has been the overarching narrative of the media.

Regardless of how many “Peace” prizes it hands out, a country at war is in exact opposition to peace. To call any country at war–let alone two wars–“peaceful” serves only to destroy any meaning the word had.